Mairéad Byrne’s Report on SoundEye 09


SoundEye #13 was the best festival yet, we are all agreed, at least
since SoundEye #12 .  SoundEye is the best approximately poetry
festival in the approximately English-speaking world: we all agree on
that.  This year, rather than tearing off to the Internet shop to
report from the scene, I luxuriated in immersion, having gained enough
equilibrium, approximately, to relax.   Charlie Bird no more, I bring
these observations.


SEAN BONNEY is first to read, I’m second, and KEITH TUMA , third.  We
stand.  I have a telephone book and a scroll.  JIMMY CUMMINS stands,
maybe sways.  FRANCES KRUK looks professorial.  KESTON SUTHERLAND is
high energy, dialogic, embracing the emphatic “you.”  Harry Potterish
yet sartorially splendid, in a subtle way of course, the SoundEye
Sumptuary Laws being strict.  KESTON inspires my poem, delivered later
in the week:


Yes I have something to say:
I like your shirt.
I like your socks.

KEVIN PERRYMAN is wry, avuncular; he reads sitting down, like a kind
therapist or teacher, mediating between poem and audience.  MICHAEL
SMITH sits.    SWANTJE LICHTENSTEIN stands, there not being a second
chair.   KEVIN , her translator, interestingly reverses the
conventional dynamic by taking center stage, sitting squarely at a
table, and initiating proceedings.  It is as if SWANTJE ’s poems
produce KEVIN ’ s , or—in a neat rhetorical gender reversal—supply the
generative spark.  STEPHEN RODEFER sits, his demeanor kind of
confrontational, kind of bitter and dismissive, though funny.  JEROME
ROTHENBERG stands; he is explanatory, with a lightness/humor, an
intelligent silliness honoring a ginormous appetite for language and
art.  GEOFFREY SQUIRES , true to form, surrounds himself with silence,
strangely positioning himself in an invisible spotlight onstage in the
FIRKIN CRANE ; he speaks in soliloquy, eyes downcast, sitting,
reflective, meditative, his uncanny stage presence paradoxically
accommodating both the privacy of poet and the reality of audience.
Even the water jug and glasses at his elbow lose materiality, becoming all line and light.  All around the perimeter, backstage: the
cacophony of many small dancers with no concept of stage.  CHRISTINE
WERTHEIM stands, dressed in black, with magnificent hair.  She
distributes handouts and has a laptop.  DAVID TOMS stands; he is
declarative.  J IM GOAR is conversational / emphatic; he has no socks;
he holds his book.  MARCUS SLEASE stands.  PETER MANSON paces; he
wears a brown t-shirt, black jeans; he grasps his book; he is a Grand
Young Man; at the end he says thank you!   MAGGIE O’SULLIVAN thanks
the organizers and addresses the audience: “It is a great privilege to
be able to come w/ a book at last”:  Waterfalls (Etruscan Books
2009).  MAGGIE is intense / intent / Orphic / emphatic.  She drinks
water and says One more .  TOM RAWORTH wears a Hawaiian shirt.  He is
the granddaddy of the English ranters.  The last word of his last poem
shoots into Thank you .  Baby ranter LUKE ROBERTS ’ left thigh is
super active.  “It’s warm,” he says, “Thanks, I’ve had a great few
days.  Too great— I can’t see .”   He drinks water.  MARK MALLON
stands.  He reads abruptly.  TREVOR JOYCE translates.  MARK and TREVOR
follow KEVIN and SWANTJE ’s model, but TREVOR ’s demeanor is different
to KEVIN ’ s; he is delicate, approaching the lectern somewhat
tentatively following MARK ’s torrents.  At the end, MARK claps, then
realizes he hasn’t read the poem yet and goes back to read.  THOMAS
MCCARTHY wears a cord jacket; I think TREVOR ’ s been storing him at
his house for the last four years; he reads from a hand-held
hard-backed book, and says “I marked the poems here.”  BILLY MILLS
wears a straw hat.  Lares / Manes (Shearsman 2009) in hand, he opens
with an address on classical learning.  Later, saying “It is generally my habit in recent years to read from someone else’s book,” he reads from Richard Owens’ magazine, Damn the Caesars .  He reads a last
poem, “Robin Hopping on the Wall,” and says thank you .  MARTIN
CORLESS-SMITH reminds me of “Dicky-dicky-dout”; he reads from a bundle
of papers: “I’m just reading these ones to myself …. I’ll get back to
you.”  Rara avis CATHERINE WALSH has new eye-glasses, drinks water,
reads and sings in Spanish and English, and says,  “To finish off I’ll
read a tiny little bit from my rather intermittent book Optic Verve ”
(Shearsman 2009).  She holds the book open with her two hands, covers
like spread wings—“To finish up and let you all go.”  I don’t want to

at st. fin barre’s cathedral

if you are wet you can buy socks
if you are cold there is tea
€3 — for all the sound you can accommodate
for 3 hrs or 6 — all that you need

At SONIC VIGIL in ST. FIN BARRE’S CATHEDRAL where I spend 5 hours
during a rainstorm on Saturday the sound artists present themselves
quite differently to the poets.  They sit at a high table, attentive
to their Macs, hedged in by amps, dressed in black, oblivious as an
Irish fiddler to their audience; with maybe a small smile and
punctilious colloquy with the keyboard to close.  Even when they are
not alone on stage, they are alone, more distanced from their audience
than poets. In a way, their function onstage, besides being wizards,
is to model listening for an audience in which they don’t quite
believe.   MICK O’SHEA , curator, sound artist, member of the CORK
ARTISTS COLLECTIVE comes along the pews and whispers to me

How did you find out about this ?  Each art form has its performance culture.  I
tend not to whoop in the FIRKIN CRANE , but at the CABARET ….  I
don’t take notes at the CABARET .   I imbibe sound at SONIC VIGIL .
My head is open for listening.  So it is all the more interesting to
see/hear the poets in the CATHEDRAL .  CHRISTINE WERTHEIM is demure in
this gnarly, outrageous space; I envy her the opportunity to sound the
declamatory female voice where it has seldom sounded.  JEROME
ROTHENBERG , my maraschino cherry, is adorable with his orange
woggle.  Chameleon JAAP BLONK adapts to every space.  This week I’ve
seen him morph in the SYCAMORE CLUB in Temple Bar, couscous@meades in
Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork, and now in ST. FIN BARRE’S.   He paws
the boundaries of each space, having surely cased the joints first.
In the CATHEDRAL , he climbs up on a chair (rather than breaching the
pulpit), and jumps down (despite an injured back).  He explores
lateral possibilities too, disappearing up a side aisle, invading the
center aisle for his drunken song, much drunker here than in the
decorous SYCAMORE CLUB.  I hate black but any other color on JAAP
would be spookier.  JAAP BLONK in green. JAAP BLONK in yellow.  JAAP
BLONK in electric blue.  No.   Most poets don’t clap themselves.  MARK
MALLON does.  I do.  JAAP BLONK claps himself all over his chest and
body.  Then says bye-bye .


SEAN B is a New York hydrant gush, all braced / laced energy.  MAIRÉAD
publicly  adores the rhythms of JOHN DONNE .  JIMMY C is all
modulation.  JIMMY manipulates space; probing the energy of silence,
the seductive primordial bristle of listening.  While still
subscribing to the metrics of the vehement.  FRANCES K is
Shakespearean: an iambic, organizing voice, musical, soliloquizing a
mid range of speech. KESTON announces heptameters so that’s that.
KEVIN intermediates.  SWANTJE is emphatic: strong, precise,
long-breathed, rolling her r s.  Vehemently, she tells of terrible
things but raspberry house with a silver roof says Kevin pleasantly.
At one point SWANTJE breaks into English / disoriented:  I mean you
wouldn’t care but I get (insecure).   KEVIN , the cat with cream, is
equanimous.  TREVOR , as translator, lays it on delicately; delivering
from a slight distance; MARK M rolls out rapid dark deep sound,
spilling the Finnish beans.  STEPHEN R is American, conversational,
epigrammatic, generous/ample.   JEROME is musical, rhythmic.
CHRISTINE  all voice and phrasing, sound of vowel and consonant,
repetition and breath—a register of ridiculousness distinct from that
of the young ranters, some of whom seem to be laughing.  SLOW rather
than FAST POETICS.  Harder to make your own idiom, standing alone.
DAVID T is declarative: in attitude and tone.  JIM G surprises with
brimming words.  In ST. FIN BARRE’S TONY LANGLOIS addresses the
audience; otherwise the SONIC VIGIL chaps eschew voice.  PETER M is
powerful, a howl w/ strong rhythms.  MAGGIE tells terrible news—tales
not quite comprehensible but not sparing of synonyms, and shades of
meaning;  TOM R scolds mercilessly; TOM McC is quizzical. CATHERINE
is hi/lo , up and down the Spanish/English scales.


KEITH brings Paris Hilton to the FIRKIN CRANE , and a reprise of
Donald Hall’s “Poetry and Ambition.”  FRANCES says pox and orifice ,
illegal mouths and snake and slaver and sizzled and suck and suckle
and tits and leg drippings (I think), musically.  Is meaning emotional
positioning?   Meaning as leaning.  Endurance as content.  Duration
as, and as a challenge to, content.  KESTON reads from Stress Position
, which involves a cooking competition aboard a gastronomic cruise
ship organized by Black Beauty, with contestants including KESTON
SUTHERLAND and Hakagawa.  At least I think that’s what he says.  Along
with “You who are so lavishly alive your heart will explode”; “My thin
heart thrashes”;  and “I wanted,” said Hakagawa, letting the sentence
trail away in the water / letting the starshine flicker on it.”
KEVIN is bucolic / domestic.   I don’t understand much German so
German becomes the substance of SWANTJE ’s reading, along with SWANTJE

of course.    MICHAEL SMITH refers to the 70th anniversary of
Spanish Civil War; translations from Vallejo, “A Man passes with a
loaf of bread on his shoulder,” “Black stone on top of a white stone”
(Vallejo gets it nearly right); Miguel Hernandez’ (I think) “Lullaby
of the Onion.”  MICHAEL reads his own poems too: “White Water for
Trevor,” “Brightness,” (another) “Robin,” “The Troubled Soul,” “City
Child Digging a Hole”; “Interior w/ Cat”:  Michael’s poems answer the
address of his titles.   [Note :  We need an anthology of poems for
TREVOR ; even I have a poem for TREVOR . STEPHEN ruminates on sex,
women, Europe, love (“true minds admit impediments”); reads a poem of
twists and echoes; reads “To the Empress ,” and “Fleurs de Val.”
JEROME embraces death / art / time / poetry, expresses solidarity with
Goya, Michael McClure, Jeffrey Robinson, Jackson MacLow.  He
collaborates with Coleridge, and demonstrates that languages don’t
rhyme with each other.  GEOFF begins with a poem for TREVOR , dips
into earlier work, then reads from his ongoing conversation with
Hafez, referencing also, less than enthusiastically, a translation by
Mangan.  CHRISTINE lobs mutter and mother foursquare into the charmed
circle of the FIRKIN CRANE , conjures up Apollinaire, Joyce and
Beckett.   DAVID T engages in verbal pyrotechnics.   JIM G refers to
Spicer, Galahad, the Pen Dragon, and a lot about Elaine, delivering
the second most romantic reading of the FESTIVAL (after STEPHEN
RODEFER ); MARCUS brought us to Poland or Poland to us, reminding me
of Kavanagh’s naming these things is the love-act and its pledge .
SONIC VIGIL scours out my head.  Less the noun of content than the
verb of listening. JEROME barrels into ST. FIN BARRE’S with Hugo Ball,
Kurt Schwitters, his own total translations of Navajo songs.  JAAP
isolates the substance of Dutch, with his language of the Underlands ,
a parallel, discriminating language, reveling in sound without burden
of further application.   He gives a harrowing performance of Hugo
Ball’s Totenklage (1916), voicing, for me, all the grief  harbored in
ST. FIN BARRE’S since built in1870, and before.  PETER M caps Vallejo
with “My Funeral”; he makes me ache for vulgarity in my own poetry.
TOM says something that sounds like “Byrne’s institutionalized
fictions,” reads a poem to Miles Champion, and reads his “Red
Wheelbarrow” (or one of them), “Chips,” and also affably remarks “The
only entertainment left at the poetry [festival?] is what shade of
color and smell gangrene has for the connoisseur.”   LUKE ROBERTS
gives close attention to titles.  His your hair is total pornography
goes nicely with GEOFF ’s last night / all night / we told / the tale
/ of your hair .  TOM McCARTHY ’s reads from The Last Geraldine
Officer (Anvil Press Poetry 2009).  His titles are landscapes, a large
family could have a picnic on any one of them.  Rough samplings—
“Nathaniel Murphy in his sister’s bedroom, 1798” and “He thinks of the
meaning of constant happiness, 1807.”  Cast of characters includes
Dave Brubeck, James Clarence Mangan (again), and Wilfred Thesiger, I
believe.   He also reads a poem on leading: at last a poem for the
spaces between lines.  His final poem, “The Waiting Deputies,” from
Mr. Dineen’s Careful Parade (Anvil Press Poetry 2000), emerged from an
impulse to write a poem “without biography, a poem made of stone and
wind.”  BILLY addresses home/family/place, with poems including ;
“Glendalough Forest Walk,” “At Vermeer’s Window,” and a poem made from
instructions on a pack of Tampax .  MARTIN CORLESS-SMITH , reading
after BILLY , continues the argument with domesticity.  He also
provides a definition which stays with me: “Friends—which can mean
pleasant strangers.”  CATHERINE WALSH reads from No Soy Tu Musa
(Ediciones Torremozas, Madrid 2008), a Spanish/English anthology of
the work of eight Irish women poets, with an introduction by JOHN
GOODBY [who incidentally gets the BEST DRESSED MAN AWARD for this
year’s SoundEye.  O nce again MAGGIE O’SULLIVAN walks away with the
at the short-list stage though I believe the LEAST UXORIOUS PRIZE has
a hands-down winner].  CATHERINE also reads from Short Stories (North
& South1989): “This is a very young person’s book”; also a poem by
Mina Loy; and an elegy for Ric Caddel.


In the GUEST HOUSE : the beautiful noise of children outside— SEAN
BONNEY ’s upside-down face—the audience ranked in rows thinking What
can I learn from this? (the poetry, not SEAN ‘s face)—41 people in the
audience: 27 males, and 14 females.   In the FIRKIN CRANE : If my ears
could be channels for poetry as they are for music/sound— Poetry is a
quiet art, where there is the greatest equation, perhaps, between
listening and respect—The door slams not on the one who leaves but on

the one who stays.

at the book table

if you ask the price of a book

rachel fills her hands w/ books

+ gives them to you

for nothing

no, not for nothing—

for love.

At ST. FIN BARRE’S : These people really believed in God—If not in
God, then in buildings.  At the GLUCKSMAN : a wedding outside.  In the
upstairs room of MEADE’S WINE BAR : MATTHEW GEDEN perched on a
mantelpiece, reading his poems, candles shooting flame up on either
side.  In this room, once the boys’ bedroom, Mrs. Meade drilled her
sons for the Feis Maitiú.

5 church street

when you come to the blue door

it will be slightly ajar

go in (minding to close

the middle doors—

the cat )

At EASON’S HILL COMMUNITY CENTRE : The smell of damp, it’s lashing
again—blossom of unnoticed space.  At the FIRKIN CRANE :  LUKE ROBERTS
under amber and blue stage lights, lapped by wooden cases of Paddy and
empty frames.   Last session in THE GUEST HOUSE : Chirrup of babies in
the back row—an absence of PETER MANSON .  THE GUEST HOUSE : A venue
that takes its name seriously.  Like every day of SOUNDEYE 2009 , this
day keeps getting better. TREVOR’ s last words: There will be soup .


“My boss is a Protestant from Omagh.” (KF)

“The Prime Minister finds such utterances extremely inappropriate.”

“Eureka, folded on my knee, thin as spectacle frames.” (ANON)

How agog do I want to be?” (ANON)

“I live in hesitation of tomorrow .”  (KP)

“The characteristic Cork demeanor is one of mild surprise and interest
in everything.   The person surprised may, in fact, have organized the
event.  Nevertheless he’s quite interested in it.”  (ANON)

“My ears a little baffled by the small penis of his sound.” (ANON)

“You don’t have to get poetry out there—people will carry it out for
you.”  (ANON)


from couscous@meades , fri july 10, 2009 , 9-11.45pm

I love the sound of An Bord Snip .  So I brought my scissors with me +
I’m going to SNIP two parts of the evening apart: performance +
applause .   I want to do the clapping first.  That doesn’t mean you
can’t clap later.  Of course you can —y ou’re good at it!  But I want
to bulld a bank of applause .  So we can feel secure.  It’s like money
in the bank.  Well it’s not, but it’s like that phrase .  So let’s
hear it for the 27 READERS + PERFORMERS tonight!  Let’s hear it for
the audience (which is the same thing really)!  TREVOR will read in a
minute but let’s CLAP TREVOR now.  And FERGAL + JIMMY + RACHEL +
MARJA.   Let’s CLAP for CLAPPING!  Let’s go!


3 thoughts on “Mairéad Byrne’s Report on SoundEye 09

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